I said this morning that no one has ever accepted a qualifying offer. This time next week it’s possible that still will be the case. I think, however, we may have our best candidate in the running: Jon Heyman reports that the Padres will extend a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Ian Kennedy before the 5pm deadline today.
Kennedy posted a 9-15 record with a 4.28 ERA and a 174/52 K/BB ratio over 168.1 innings for the Padres this season. Maybe that gets him a multi-year deal, but it’s doubtful it gets him one with an average annual value of $15.8 million
Based on the examples of past recipients of the qualifying offer, Kennedy may very well try his luck for some longer-term job security, but he’s a closer case than many.
While free agents can’t sign with other teams until midnight tonight, free agency season truly begins at 5pm this afternoon. That’s the deadline for teams to decide whether to extend a one-year, $15.8 million contract offer to their impending free agents. This offer, known as the Qualifying Offer, will give players a choice: accept it and take that $15.8 million or reject it, become free agents and then force any team which signs them to surrender its top unprotected (i.e. non-top-10) draft pick. Players have a week to decide.
Those draft picks are often called “compensation picks,” but they should be called “punishment picks,” as they are, in reality, designed to impede the market for players’ services by punishing teams who sign free agents and depressing the salaries of most of the players to whom those picks are attached. No player, since the advent of the qualifying offer, has accepted one. A handful have taken a hit when going to sign contracts with other teams, as their value has been discounted by the cost of a pick.
Anyway, that’s what you’ll be hearing about this afternoon, as players either are given or not given qualifying offers. Then at midnight tonight any free agent — those with qualifying offers and those without — can begin negotiating with any other team. Unlike in football and the NBA, baseball free agents don’t tend to sign in a land rush, all on the first day. It often takes some time, which is part of why hot stove season is so fun. Expect moves and deals between tonight and early February, really.
Just over a month ago, just as the Yankees were about to face off against the Astros in the American League Wild Card Game, starting pitching CC Sabathia announced that he was entering alcohol rehab. He left the team for a facility in Connecticut and entered radio silence.
He’s out now, and he’s making media rounds today, giving interviews for newspapers and TV about his struggle with alcoholism. The Daily News has an extended interview with him here.
Sabathaia describes himself as a “functioning alcoholic,” who, for the most part, would go on binges alone in hotel rooms while on the road. He says that while he would often be hungover at the ballpark the next day, on non-pitching days, he did not drink on nights before he pitched and did not show up drunk to the ballpark. Indeed, he says the thing that made him realize he had such a big problem with alcohol was the manner in which he planned his binges ahead of time in order to not have it interfere with his pitching. The tail wagged the dog.
Of course, it’s probably too much to say that it had no effect on his pitching whatsoever. If you’re not 100% on your off-days you’re not going to approach your prep work, be it mentally or physically, as well as you can. And of course excessive drinking has overall physical tolls associated with it. In the short term, however, rehab has had its own physical toll: Sabathia says he ate too much while drying out and has gained weight. He vows to spend the offseason working out and getting back in shape.
Every addict’s story is slightly different. And Sabathia’s could have been much, much worse. But it was no doubt serious and scary to him and inspired him to get help. Here’s hoping the help he got and will continue to get will ensure his sobriety and health going forward. For the sake of both his baseball career and his life.